Jesus Christ or Coca-Cola?
About 10:15 p.m., Friday night (Oct. 18), I arrived home.
I had just returned from Spanish speaking San Pedro Sula, Honduras. Rev. Shane Bishop invited me. Powerful, inspirational and eye-opening experiences became a part of my life. To write this article, I thought I’d get an Internet snapshot of Honduras’ second largest city. A March 28, 2013, CNN article called San Pedro Sula, “the murder capital of the world… at least three homicides occur daily,” it said. That unfamiliar image jolted me. So did things familiar, namely Jesus and Coca-Cola.
Responding to Jesus’ call to feed my sheep, Marvin and Karen Steinke created Feed My Sheep Ministry. They “had to build a partnership ministry with Jesus in Honduras” after several mission visits. Since 2005, Feed My Sheep has passed out Bibles (Santa Biblia), made donations for student scholarships, uniforms and school supplies, set up feeding projects in churches and conducted biannual medical clinics. Others joined them, including lay folks of Fairview Heights Christ UMC. Invited, this bishop joined them Oct. 16-18, for one of their medical clinics.
In the sweltering heat and humidity of a Honduran Day, compassionate laypersons ministered to Christ in the form of “the least of these.” They gave away sunglasses. Recipients left the premises with protection from the sun’s harmful rays. Other patients left with restored vision and/or new vision. Eye examinations from a practicing optometrist resulted in a pair of glasses with limited waiting time. Instead of old glasses not needed by others, every patient received new glasses. Two men sat at table installing prescription lens into new frames. What a moment of rejoicing!! Patients had no bill to pay for their examination or eye glasses. Best of all, they had new vision and restored lives. Two doctors treated patients free of charge and dispensed medicine where possible. When the hot sun caused a pregnant woman to collapse; they stabilized her. And the baby was fine. Praise God.
In another room, a dentist used an office chair as a dental chair. Examinations and extractions were provided with tender, loving care especially with the children.
I asked Kelly, a nurse, why she came to Honduras. “Because I love people,” she said. Now a resident in Colorado, Kelly joined her old colleagues in medical ministry. To families experiencing a veritable Hades on earth, these dedicated laypersons offered love and healing hands to all who needed them. Later that evening, we had a two hour worship service in the same space where hundreds of people had been given medical attention. We sang, prayed and heard the word preached. The following morning, five of us walked down to the markets in open air. Shane’s father Fred Bishop gave me some tracts to pass out. Then, I listened as he did street evangelism in Spanish. The spirit of the living God was present.
Coca-Cola impressed me in Honduras as well. Not a single word about Coke did I spot in a paper read or television program seen. Yet, Coca-Cola seemed omnipresent although it is not and God is. A visitor from Coca-Cola’s home in Atlanta made it plain. “Coke is everywhere. For example, Coca-Cola signs showed up on buildings, street signs and street vendors. Inside the San Pedro Sula Penitentiary, inmates sold everything from shoes, clothes, jewelry to food and soft drinks. Yes, they had Coca-Cola for sale.
Consultant Jorge Thiebaud claimed that he helped the soda giant attain a 74 percent market share with continuing profits (see Jorge Thiebaud, San Pedro Sula, Internet). During meals, we ordered Coca-Cola often. Instead of root beer floats, our hotel restaurant menu advertised Cola Floats.
One landmark has reigned over San Pedro Sula for 30 years. Like the H O L L Y W O O D sign in L.A., a huge sign on the Merendon Mountain Range has communicated two powerful words, night and day -- Coca-Cola.
That sign left me wondering who is transforming whom in Honduras -- Coca-Cola or Jesus Christ. Regardless of the soft drink’s present influence, Coca-Cola doesn’t have a chance to outperform our awesome God in the long run. Admittedly, I found myself wishing if not praying that God would grant IGRC the faith and commitment to claim its market share of folk in Illinois for authentic discipleship in Jesus Christ. Somebody invited, trained, equipped, supported and/or nurtured lay folk from Fairview Heights Christ UMC, to use their gifts in San Pedro Sula for healing body and soul, abroad and at home; Dios de la alabanza.
Coca-Cola slakes human thirst for one moment in time. But the drink of water Jesus Christ offers carries the promise that “we’ll never thirst again.” Choose IGRC -- Jesus Christ or Coca- Cola!!